Stealing from the government used to be a crime. We called it “fraud.” There were all sorts of ways people defrauded the government. They took advantage of welfare benefits, tax and securities regulations, health care entitlements, and a multitude of other laws and programs ripe for abuse.
Now we have a gray area. Let’s call it “allowable fraud.” Left-wing hysteria over helping out undocumented immigrants created a climate where stealing from the government is something we are more likely to reinterpret or ignore outright.
Who decides when stealing from the government is forbidden? The government, which is also adept at stealing from you by letting your money slip through its fingers.
Billions given away: Washington, we have a problem
When it comes to stealing from Uncle Sam, illegal aliens received the message loud and clear: our laws are broken. We will settle up when we start you on the path to citizenship.
The Treasury Inspector General Report “Individuals Who Are Not Authorized to Work in the United States Were Paid $4.2 Billion in Refundable Credits” alerted taxpayers to a problem that simmers while Congress bickers over amnesty.
Three years after that report the Treasury Department found that $5.9-$7.1 billion in possible improper payments were being doled out by the Child Tax Credit and another $14.5 billion in improper earned income tax credit payments.1 The losses were not all due to illegal immigration, but the message was again clear: we have a problem.
We still do.
Is it stealing from the government if illegals pay taxes?
Earlier this month House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra slammed Republicans for trying to do something about illegals benefitting from the Child Tax Credit. Congressman Becerra seemed outraged that H.R. 4722, the Refundable Child Tax Credit Eligibility Verification Reform Act of 2016, would require a Social Security Number to receive the child tax credit. He charged that the bill:
… changes the rules for the Child Tax Credit, unfairly punishes U.S. citizen children of low-income, tax-filing immigrant families. These families work, pay taxes, file their tax returns, and qualify for the CTC. If we wish to tackle a broken immigration system or the issue of fraud, let’s do so. But HR 4722 is not even a poor substitute for this purpose.2
Is profiting from the U.S. economy by working when you are not legally entitled okay if you pay taxes? Even drug dealers can pay their taxes if they buy tax stamps. That doesn’t make dealing drugs legal, but purveyors of illegal drugs have not benefited from politics in the same way as illegals who have been turned into victims.
Ending birthright citizenship would fix this
There is a gaping loophole with this tax credit. It would be closed by ending birthright citizenship.
The IRS already made a citizenship test part of the Child Tax Credit:
Citizenship Test – To meet the citizenship test, the child must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or U.S. resident alien.3
Despite the financial drain, Democrats have been resolute in resisting any change to our archaic, now irrelevant birthright citizenship law. In response to GOP hearings to end the practice, California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren summed up her party’s position:
The question that we are asked to consider is whether birthright citizenship is the right policy for America. I think the answer is clearly yes, and that in fact no other policy would be worthy of this country.4
That’s how allowable fraud works.
Tax credits are only part of a problem that includes $3.1 billion in fraudulent refunds doled out by the IRS because of Social Security number fraud and the failure to match W-2s to tax returns.5
The theft of our money doesn’t end there.
Stealing from government health care
Obamacare subsidies are a huge benefit if you are at the lower end of the income scale.
S.42 tried to put an end to handing government health care dollars to the undocumented:
The Stopping Illegal Obamacare Subsidies Act is a much needed response to a June 2014 report from the non-partisan Inspector General (IG) which found over one million Obamacare applications with problems related to an individual’s citizenship and legal status have gone unresolved.6
That bill and Senator David Vitter’s (R-LA) companion S.75, the Education Tax Fraud Prevention Act, went nowhere.
A March 2016 Government Accountability Office report pointed out that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services resisted dealing with identity problems:
We also found, based on our analysis of the 2014 data, that CMS did not terminate or adjust subsidies for any applications with incarceration or Social Security number inconsistencies, plus other inconsistencies. Further, CMS officials told us that they currently do not plan to take any actions on individuals with unresolved Social Security number or incarceration inconsistencies.7
What does this mean in dollars and cents? A February 2016 report noted:
GAO found CMS did not have an effective process for resolving inconsistencies for individual applicants for the federal Health Insurance Marketplace (Marketplace). For example, according to GAO analysis of CMS data, about 431,000 applications from the 2014 enrollment period, with about $1.7 billion in associated subsidies for 2014, still had unresolved inconsistencies as of April 2015 – several months after close of the coverage year.8
While government watchdogs monitor CMS to prevent stealing from the government, we have a bill like the “Exchange Inclusion for a Healthy America Act of 2015” that would extend exchange access to illegals.
With lawmakers sending the message that the undocumented deserve what they can steal, how determined will they be to make sure the system they already labeled “broken” will prosecute those who take advantage by stealing from the government?
Allowable fraud? Why government lets stealing slip past.
An enormous bureaucracy is a hard thing to police. The more people with questionable identities we have to worry about the harder it is to stop the theft of our money.
A 2015 fraud conviction involved an Iraqi man who lied on his citizenship application and was caught stealing from the government. The charges show the kind of damage just one or two people can do:
The programs defrauded included the Women, Infants and Children (“WIC”) program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (“TANF”), HUD, and Medicaid benefits. Dalalli and his wife defrauded these programs by failing to reveal their ownership of Lebanese bank accounts and other assets, and by concealing their living arrangements in connection with their receipt of HUD-subsidized housing. The fraud scheme resulted in losses totaling $126,739. 9
ICE gave us another incident to think about in the wake of Democrats banging the drum for Middle East refugees:
According to his plea agreement, from 2007 to 2012, Manafov conspired with others in assisting approximately 70 individuals in fraudulently applying for asylum benefits. Manafov gave the individuals fake stories to describe how the applicant’s family was purportedly hurt or killed due to political or ethnic affiliation. He provided fake foreign documents to prove these stories.10
Then there is our president, who contradicts himself about responsibility:
All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.11
The problem is that we don’t all take offense. Life in the shadows, like a life of crime, requires a moral and legal laxity that our federal bureaucracy is not always equipped to manage and too many in Congress are willing to accommodate.
The larger problem is that our definition of stealing has changed when it should be broadened. Working without authorization is theft of jobs. Sending kids to our public schools is theft of education resources, as is using police and other public services. Even voting rights can be stolen because lawmakers don’t believe identification should be a prerequisite to casting a ballot. There are more than enough loopholes, agenda conflicts, and lack of oversight that reaping the benefits of being a citizen doesn’t have to involve being an American. All it takes is a little insight into the best ways to steal
from our government.
Updated 3/30/2016 to add a link to Treasury Inspector General’s report and correct two typographical errors.